Work was different than the last time they broke up.
The day they’d driven home from Melissa’s parents’ house, and Troy had dropped her off at her cousin’s, everyone seemed to know they’d broken up. The guys in the community had come out of the woodwork, vying for Melissa’s attention.
This time, no one knew they’d broken up.
Not even her cousin.
Melissa went about her daily routine. Got up for work. Spent the day like a zombie. Ran the store. Ordered supplies and inventory. Calculated payroll. Scheduled employee shifts. Volunteered to come early and stayed late. Never made a fuss. Never shed a tear.
It was like Troy Weller never existed. Except, he did exist. And he had changed Melissa. Forever.
And yet, forever is exactly what Troy didn’t want. For whatever reason, Troy didn’t want to spend forever with her. And for whatever reason, since he didn’t want to spend forever with her, he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life with her either.
She tried not to let that hurt. She tried not to think about him at all. Or so she told herself.
Not talking about him helped. Since no one knew they’d broken up, no one gave her those pitying stares. Since there was no juicy gossip about her and Troy, everyone went about their daily lives without paying her any attention.
One week and two days after they broke up, Melissa had a knock at her office door. Not a face she expected to see.
“Craig?” Melissa couldn’t fathom why Troy’s brother would be showing up at her work in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon.
“May I have a word with you?” Craig asked. Not waiting for her answer, he closed her office door and sat across from her desk. “There’s something I need to tell you.”
Their conversation was brief. Ten minutes, tops. And then he was gone.
And Melissa was left to mop up what was left of her heart. In order to do that, she needed to make a trip to the back room and locate a proverbial mop, or in this case a green block of industrial strength soap just right for scrubbing germs out of a hand cut by a broken beer bottle that destroyed the drive train on a no-till planter.
As if in a trance, Melissa walked slowly to the utility sink where she found what she was looking for. She picked up the strong-smelling bar of green soap and remembered Troy’s comments about how good she smelled, and how her eyes shown like emeralds. She never did get that emerald engagement ring.
She held the bar in her hands and turned it over several times, marveling at the sticky dryness with a hint of a damp spot on one side.
Melissa turned on the water in the utility sink, holding the soap under the running water, letting the water flow over the bar without fanfare or suds. Rolling the bar over and over, she created a sudsy mound of soap all around her hands, relishing the silky smooth, fluffy bubbles.
After a few moments of scrubbing her own hands, remembering the day she met Troy and how this had felt washing his hands, she set the soap back onto the little rack and rinsed her hands thoroughly. She reached for the paper towel and dried her hands but didn’t go so far as to wrap her uninjured hand in a bandage.
She reached into the first aid kit and held an unopened bandage in her hand, welcoming the tears that finally pricked at her eyes. Finally allowing herself to grieve the loss of the man she loved, she sank to the floor in the back room of her store, crouched beside the utility sink and sobbed, rocking back and forth like a confused child.
This is not how she planned to spend her afternoon. This is not how she wanted to live her life. She clutched the unopened bandage in her hand and sobbed.
Book Club Discussion Questions: What do you think Craig said to Melissa that made her so upset?